You don't have to be from the islands to appreciate this collection of short stories from Graham Salisbury. You don't even have to be a boy. Anyone can relate to the underlying theme in all of the stories: growing up.
Salisbury has a nice, easy style and rhythm in his writing that isn't often found in short stories for young adults. There are no heavy-handed morality lessons (all too common in this medium) or hidden agendas. All of the stories are quick-paced and easy to read.
Forty Bucks is one that really stuck with me, and I can't even put my finger on why it did. Shane and Jimmy are closing up the Taco Bell when an old man who speaks no English walks in. He's trying to buy a beer (cerveza, por favor), but they have no clue what he's talking about. While they are trying to decide what to do about him, some other boys come in and demand the old man's money and some tacos at knifepoint.
While this may sound like an action-packed adventure story, it really isn't. No one beats anyone up, the bad guys don't really get punished and Shane and Jimmy don't really learn anything. Maybe that's what ultimately appeals to me about this whole collection. They are quiet stories, packed with a punch you don't get from adrenaline-pumping fright-fests. Bits of the stories will stick with you for days to come because they feel real.
Maybe you know someone like the boys in the story. Maybe you are like the boy in the story. All of the characters ring true. Sometimes they break the rules. Sometimes they don't do what they think they should. They aren't filled with courage or brilliant ideas. They are just people.
Graham Salisbury's love of people shines through in every story. He cares about his characters and consequently, so do we.